HOMEWOOD, Ala. — President Donald Trump is eviscerating Sen. Mitch McConnell over the lagging Republican agenda, and none of the three main candidates in the increasingly nasty Senate GOP primary in this state are taking the majority leader’s side.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said in an interview on Thursday that he found it “baffling” that Trump would go after McConnell yet endorse Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), which “helps ensure nothing will get done.”
But “no question” that Trump’s criticism was fair, Brooks added: “Mitch McConnell, if he’s not gonna get the job done, needs to resign so someone else can try to get the job done.”
Even Strange, a member of McConnell’s rank and file, noted that he himself has also said, “Mitch, get back to work.”
“We all need to get back to work,” Strange told reporters following a county GOP meeting here Thursday night. “I was part of the group of Republican senators who said we shouldn’t even take a vacation. I don’t know why we’re taking a vacation. We should be working to pass the president’s agenda and deal with the problems we failed to address last time.”
When pressed about Trump’s apparent lack of confidence in the majority leader, Strange noted that “he’s frustrated like I am, and this is no secret.” The incumbent senator added, however, that he didn’t believe the Senate GOP conference needed new leadership.
“We all talked about it,” Strange said. “Said, if we failed to do what’s promised, we’re going to look silly and rightfully be criticized. And so I have no problem with the president saying that at all.”
McConnell has loomed large in the Alabama Senate primary. A super PAC with ties to the majority leader and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is marshaling its resources to protect Strange, who was tapped in February for the vacancy created when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general. The pro-Strange forces have shredded Brooks through negative ads during the campaign, and recently began going after former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the front-runner in the primary.
But McConnell has been on the receiving end of attacks himself from the president, who has lamented multiple times on Twitter about his frustration with McConnell and the Senate GOP’s failure to successfully pass legislation repealing Obamacare last month.
During his vacation in Bedminster, N.J., Trump tweeted on Thursday, “Mitch, get back to work,” about the GOP agenda, and declined to express confidence in the majority leader in comments to reporters earlier in the day.
“I’ll tell you what: If he doesn’t get repeal-and-replace done, and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure, he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question,” Trump said.
McConnell spokesman David Popp said he had no new comment, saying, “The leader has spoken repeatedly about the path forward regarding Obamacare repeal-and-replace on the Senate floor, at media availabilities and in Kentucky.”
In an interview, Moore declined to comment on Trump’s Twitter attacks toward McConnell, saying the spat is “between them.” But the former justice made it clear he was no fan of the Kentucky Republican.
“I’m not going to say anything good about Mitch McConnell, who’s running the fund that’s attacking me with ads. Now, I won’t do that,” Moore said. “But I won’t say anything bad out him … I won’t judge that. That’s between them.”
The Aug. 15 primary election is almost certain to head to a runoff, with polls showing Moore and Strange in the top two slots but neither candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold. Brooks is polling in third place.